An idea in motion: La Jolla mother rolls out skate park proposal

Wanted: space in La Jolla for a skate park. Could La Jolla Rec Center be the place? That idea was floated at two recent La Jolla advisory group meetings by La Jolla resident Marnie Gavit, mother of three, who’s campaigning to get a skate park built to serve the large and growing number of local youths indulging in the recreational activity that’s also a mainstream sport.

In March 2009, landscape architects unveiled a visionary — and ambitious — conceptual master plan for a multiphase remodel of La Jolla Recreation Center’s grounds, which proposes moving existing basketball courts behind the center off to the side while adding a front-entry sculpture plaza and garden, a pergola, lots of shade trees, a palm court, and sound play and picnic areas.

Gavit suggested that the proposed reconfiguring of the center could include a state-of-the-art skate park.

“I’m asking for a skate park for teens to get them off our streets and sidewalks, out of your driveways and off your walls,” she said. “They need a place to go to be safe and seen. It would be something truly good for our community and kids. It will give them something to be proud of.”

Noting that the center has grass areas troubled by drainage and drought issues, Gavit noted there are private donors in the community willing to step forward to begin funding design and construction of a skate park that would take up a portion of the rec center’s lawn space.

She estimated that a skate park would cost between $500,000 and $1 million, depending on its size.

Gavit’s suggestion was made at both La Jolla Town Council’s Parks and Beaches Committee and La Jolla Parks & Recreation Inc. meetings recently, and was met with an equal mix of surprise, support and skepticism.

Some, such as La Jolla Community Planning Association Chairman Joe LaCava, applauded the idea. But he questioned whether the rec center would be the right place.

“Maybe some other part of the community, like Decatur School, a more isolated location away from residential areas,” he suggested.

Others, such as Park and Recreation Committee board members Sally Miller and John Beaver, saw a skate park as a mismatch with La Jolla’s character.

“I don’t see it fitting here,” Beaver said.

“I’ve been on this committee for 25 years to protect designated open space for our community, and I will fight that,” Miller said.

“I think both Mary Coakley and Marnie Gavit are going to have a challenging time convincing the community that the best use for La Jolla Rec Center is a skate park, which is located on a historical facility across from churches, museums, schools and residences,” said Chip Rome, president of La Jolla Parks & Rec. Inc.

“I’m open to anyone with ideas on where a skate park could be built in La Jolla,” Gavit said.

Stacy LoMedico, city of San Diego Park and Recreation director, said at the parks and rec council meeting recently that it is up to La Jolla to decide whether a skate park is appropriate or needed. But she added that other communities have decided that it is.

“It’s one of the largest recreational sports anymore for tweens and young adults,” she said. “We have skate parks throughout the city. It’s up to the community to decide what recreational amenities fit with your community.”